Achilles is the best of the Greeks in the Iliad: the fastest, the strongest, the most warlike. He fights like a god (Zeus is his great-grandfather, after all), he excels at winning, he excels at taking – men’s lives and their booty. He is the best his world has to offer.
But he cannot handle loss. When robbed of his spear-won prize Briseis, the best he can do is cry out to his goddess mother, and sulk, hopefully robbing Agamemnon of his victory. And when he loses the great love of his life Patroclus, he flies into murderous rage: he slays horse-breaker Hector in revenge (fair enough), but also horribly abuses the corpse, and even burns alive 12 Trojan boys in his bereavement. When he loses, when things are taken from him, he responds the only way he knows how: double down and take right back. Continue reading “on give and take”